West Palm Beach
Federal Defense Attorney
Let federal criminal lawyer David. J. Joffe
help you fight the tough charges you face
Federal prosecutors place enormous pressure upon criminal defendants. Various federal-level law enforcement agencies invest considerable resources in gathering evidence before filing criminal charges against someone in West Palm Beach, Florida. Sentencing guidelines frequently authorize lengthy prison sentences and high fines. Without the representation of a tenacious West Palm Beach federal defense attorney, you could easily be overwhelmed by a system willing to sweep aside your rights and pressure you into admitting guilt.
Primary types of federal crimes
Federal agencies, like as the FBI, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and Drug Enforcement Administration, look for violations of federal laws related to:
- Drug crimes: Federal prosecution, sometimes in conjunction with state prosecution, becomes possible for people allegedly involved in the trafficking, transport, or manufacturer of illicit drugs, like heroin, fentanyl, or methamphetamine. Prescription medications can also be subject to drug laws when they are trafficked outside official channels. The severity of penalties increases in relation to the amount of drugs involved, type of substance, and the scope of the operation.
- White collar crimes: This is a large category of federal crimes related to financial issues, racketeering, and interference with public officials. Examples of white collar crimes include embezzlement, money laundering, bribery, or tax evasion. Although these are nonviolent crimes because they are often committed through the manipulation of paperwork, penalties are quite harsh. Fines can reach into the six figures. Prison sentences up to 20 years are possible. Conviction often bars people from maintaining professional licenses.
- Fraud: Profiting from the use of deception is the common thread through all forms of fraud. Fines, prison time, and restitution orders are all on the table when sentencing people convicted of fraud. The federal government focuses largely on frauds that involve financial systems, mail, or telecommunication systems, like telemarketing, television, or the internet. People can commit fraud with credit cards, health insurance schemes, bankruptcy filings, or the manipulation of the value of securities. Other crimes arise when people communicate lies that convince people to pay for goods or services that never materialize or make donations to fake charities. When fraudulent businesses employ people, those employees may not realize they are part of an illegitimate operation. However, they could become exposed to criminal fraud charges anyway.
- Sex crimes: Federal investigators take very seriously their duty to prosecute people who commit sex crimes across state lines, sexually exploit minors, or distribute certain sexual content. Additionally, people have a negatively visceral response to any hint of sex crime accusations. For these reasons, anyone under investigation has a strong need for legal guidance from a knowledgeable federal defense lawyer. Mistakes made by someone facing allegations during the investigation stage could lead to criminal charges or, at a minimum, reputational damage.
Many of these offenses are also illegal at the state level, but larger-scale operations and activities that cross state or international borders will arouse the attention of federal investigators. Fraud schemes and sex crimes that involve telecommunications systems or shipping services also invite federal prosecution, making the need for an expert federal defense lawyer even more urgent.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
How lawyers defend people accused of federal crimes in West Palm Beach
At any stage of a federal investigation, a lawyer can provide many services, including:
- shielding you from making self-incriminating statements
- advising you about how and when to respond to questions from law enforcement
- explaining the nature of criminal charges
- planning defense strategies
- citing reasons to dismiss your charges
- negotiating a plea bargain
- defending you at trial
Speaking with a defense lawyer before being arrested is always appropriate if you feel that you are under suspicion for a federal crime. If an investigator asks to speak with you, you have a right to legal counsel before answering questions. Legal advice could provide insights about how to answer questions or if not answering would serve your best interests.
In a situation where you are confronted with a search warrant, legal guidance becomes more urgent. Although a court-ordered search cannot be stopped, it indicates that you or your organization is under extreme federal scrutiny. A lawyer could help you plan your next steps and respond in ways that protect your rights.
In the event of an arrest or imminent arrest in West Palm Beach, a federal defense attorney will explain the charges filed against you. This information allows you to understand the seriousness of the charges and their potential penalties.
At this stage, a federal criminal lawyer in West Palm Beach also evaluates the evidence as it is known at the time. After assessing the evidence, a lawyer can recommend responses such as fighting the charges on the basis of insufficient evidence. For many federal crimes, defense strategies hinge upon questioning the legitimacy of evidence or how authorities interpret it. Financial crimes in particular can involve large amounts of documentation that may or may not paint a clear picture of wrongdoing.
If evidence appears strong enough to convict a person, then a lawyer may suggest a plea bargain to avoid a harsh penalty. In the event that a federal crime goes to trial, a federal defense lawyer will strive to seat a sympathetic jury and cast doubt on the evidence.
The importance of legal advice and representation
Being approached by law enforcement usually shocks people. You might try to do immediate damage control on your own, but that could backfire. You might make statements in an attempt to cooperate. Federal agents could seize upon your statements as evidence of guilt and intensify their investigation. Legal representation has the potential to shield you from this outcome.
If charged and arrested, you should not assume that a public defender can give you the attention that you need during this vulnerable time. These public employees are overworked. Although they are well-meaning and want to protect your rights, they lack the resources that a private West Palm Beach federal criminal attorney can bring to your case.
Meet with a federal criminal defense attorney near you ASAP
Your freedom could very well be in jeopardy when you are the subject of a federal criminal case. The representation of an expert federal defense lawyer in West Palm Beach, Florida, is crucial for dealing effectively with investigation and prosecution. Joffe Law, P.A. has stood up for people in this stressful situation for over 35 years. Speaking with a lawyer is always better than facing federal authorities alone. For a confidential consultation, contact our office now.
Frequently Asked Questions Answered by
Federal Defense Attorney David Joffe
What’s considered a federal crime?
The simplest definition of a federal crime is an act that violates a federal law. Many offenses within the criminal code are divided between federal and state laws, and some crimes overlap both jurisdictions.
In general, crimes become federal crimes when they:
- take place across state or international borders
- involve banking, securities, or bankruptcy
- occur on federal property
- harm or threaten federal employees
- use shipping and telecommunications systems
- impact federally funded programs, like Medicare
- corrupt public officials, both elected and appointed
- involve immigration
- include certain sexual assaults or distribution of sexual material
- fail to observe federal tax laws
The federal government’s overarching control of the financial systems results in fraud and money laundering becoming federal crimes. Most of those activities will involve the banking system, telecommunications systems, and/or cross-border activities. This is also why credit card fraud and identity theft are generally federal offenses.
In some situations, offenses that would have been state-level crimes shift into federal prosecution because the alleged crime involved a federal agency in some way. For example, embezzlement at a company with federal contracts elevates the matter to a federal crime.
Who prosecutes federal crimes?
Federal crimes are processed by U.S. attorneys appointed by the government. They work under the U.S. Attorney General who runs the U.S. Department of Justice. U.S. Code Section 547 grants U.S. attorneys the power to prosecute criminal cases with federal charges.
Locally, U.S. attorneys work at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach. Throughout the country, 94 U.S. attorneys manage their individual districts and are supported by assistant U.S. attorneys.
The attorneys process information and evidence brought to them by multiple federal agencies and sometimes local law enforcement agencies. They examine evidence to determine if it could support a criminal prosecution. A U.S. attorney may convene a grand jury to consider evidence and possibly issue an indictment or file criminal charges directly.
U.S. attorneys decide where to apply the court’s resources and when to pursue criminal charges against individuals under investigation. For this reason, not all criminal complaints forwarded to their offices result in criminal charges. An attorney could deem evidence too weak to proceed. A case might also be declined due to the need to address other criminal cases that the government considers a higher priority.
How long do federal trials last?
The federal criminal trial might last one to three days on average, but a long process proceeds actually going to trial. During the trial, the prosecution and defense will present their evidence to the jury and have the chance to cross examine the witnesses brought forward by each side.
However, several months or over a year could pass from the point of being charged to going to trial. After being charged and arrested, a defendant appears at an initial hearing, which should take place within three days of arrest. A federal magistrate presides over the initial hearing, where the court decides if a person needs a public defender or has the resources to hire a private federal criminal defense lawyer.
Next, a defendant who is being detained should appear at an arraignment in U.S. district court within 10 days. A defendant who is not in custody can expect an arraignment to be scheduled within 20 days. The defendant will hear the criminal charges and enter a plea. A bail hearing may take place at the same time to determine if the defendant can pay bail and obtain pretrial release.
Following the arraignment, one or more pretrial motions will occur as each side in the case discovers its evidence. Defense attorneys typically try to seek a case dismissal or suppress evidence at this stage.
Eventually, the court will conduct a preliminary hearing to establish if the case can go to trial. Witnesses may be subpoenaed for this hearing. At the subsequent trial, the defense team strives to convince the jury of reasonable doubts about the prosecution’s case. It does not have to prove innocence. The burden is on the government to convincingly demonstrate guilt.
What is ‘asset forfeiture’ in a federal case (and can it be challenged)?
A sentence for a federal crime could include asset forfeiture, which is the government seizure of a convicted person’s valuables. The property that may be seized must only belong to the defendant. Money and property paid for by criminal proceeds are the most likely assets to be seized. Seizures may include cash, real estate, or personal property.
Not all federal crimes authorize the taking of a convicted person’s assets. Drug trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering are examples of allegations that place someone’s assets in jeopardy.
To prove a link between an item of property and criminal activity, the government must build the connection through a preponderance of evidence. This is a lower standard than beyond reasonable doubt. As part of sentencing, the government issues a preliminary order of forfeiture.
A separate hearing is conducted to detect third-party interests in the property before actual seizure. At this hearing, parties that have a claim to the property, such as a creditor, may protest the seizure and assert ownership rights.
At this point, people may challenge the asset seizure. Typically, people argue that the property was either not involved in criminal activity or they were innocent owners. Innocent owners are unaware of the illegal activity and did not consent in any way to the property’s use in illegal activity. In 2000, Congress passed the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act that improved the chances of innocent owners succeeding in protecting their property.
Can a federal conviction be expunged?
An expungement of a federal criminal conviction removes a person’s case records from public view entirely. In terms of documentation, it is as if the conviction never happened. Although this is a highly desirable outcome considering that a federal conviction can limit employment options and block access to federally subsidized housing and student loans, federal expungement is only available under very limited circumstances.
U.S. Code 18 Section 3607(c) allows expungement for people convicted of simple possession of controlled subjects when they were under the age of 21.